Three changes for RBS 6 Nations opener

Three changes for RBS 6 Nations opener

Head Coach Vern Cotter has named three changes to start Scotland’s opening RBS 6 Nations match at a sold-out BT Murrayfield Stadium this Saturday (4 February, kick-off 2.25pm).

Stormers centre Huw Jones is back in the starting line-up in place of Mark Bennett, having recovered from the foot injury that ruled him out of the team’s third and final autumn test match against Georgia in November.

Jones hit the headlines when he became the first Scot to score a brace against Australia in his first start for Scotland before being injured in the act of creating a try for Sean Maitland against Argentina a week later.

Jones will reform the midfield partnership he forged in those two tests with Alex Dunbar in between returning half backs Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell, and the back-three trio of Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour, who contributed half of Scotland’s 10-try tally in the autumn.

The remaining changes are in the pack which sees Glasgow Warriors hooker Fraser Brown promoted from the bench in place of cap centurion Ross Ford and Josh Strauss (back-row) replace clubmate Rob Harley.

Strauss’ inclusion at number 8 sees Ryan Wilson make a positional switch to the blindside of the back-row, with Hamish Watson holding down the openside role he occupied throughout the autumn.

Second-row brothers Jonny and Richie Gray return to the boiler house with young props Allan Dell and Zander Fagerson packing down either side of Brown in the front-row.

Scotland Head Coach, Vern Cotter, said: “Although it’s a reasonably settled squad, it’s nice to have an uncapped player and some reasonably new players in the team, who bring their enthusiasm along with the others.

“We’ve been growing our depth and our versatility within that, so we have a number of different options that allow us to continually attack the opposition, which is our main focus.”

He added: “Facing Ireland first up doesn’t get much harder.

“They are at the top of their game and will come here with confidence after beating some of the best teams in the world, including the All Blacks and Wallabies and having won the tournament twice in the past three years.”

There are four further changes to the bench, with Edinburgh Rugby tighthead Simon Berghan in line for a test debut if called upon from the replacements.

Elsewhere Tim Swinson, Duncan Weir and Bennett occupy the remaining back replacement spots in place of Grant Gilchrist and injured Warriors pair Pete Horne and Rory Hughes.

“We aim to win every game we play but know that Ireland will come here with a lot of confidence and try to dominate us on our home paddock,” added Cotter.

“Those are the challenges of the sport at a high level but we’ll embrace that and put everything we have into getting the right performance and result this Saturday.”

Scotland team to play Ireland at BT Murrayfield, RBS 6 Nations
Saturday 4 February (kick-off 2.25pm) – live on BBC

15. Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – 48 caps; 13 tries, 3 pens, 74 points

14. Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 26 caps; 5 tries, 25 points
13. Huw Jones (Stormers) – 3 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
12. Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) – 19 caps; 5 caps, 25 points
11. Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 31 caps, 14 tries, 70 points

10. Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors) – 22 caps; 2 tries, 3 cons, 1 pen, 19 points
9. Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester) CAPTAIN – 56 caps; 4 tries, 74 cons, 134 pens, 570 points

1. Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby) – 3 caps
2. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 20 caps
3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 4 caps
4. Richie Gray (Toulouse) – 60 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 28 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
6. Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 23 caps
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby) – 5 caps, 1 try, 5 points
8. Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors) – 9 caps

Substitutes:
16. Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) – 102 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
17. Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors) – 19 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh Rugby) – uncapped
19. Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) – 25 caps
20. John Barclay (Scarlets) – 55 caps, 4 tries, 20 points
21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 1 caps
22. Duncan Weir (Edinburgh Rugby) – 23 caps; 2 tries, 7 cons, 10 pens, 1 drop, 57 points
23. Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors) – 17 caps, 6 tries, 30 points

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